Check Against Delivery 

Chair, Honourable Members,

Food connects us. It is one of the few things that we all deal with on a daily basis explaining the strong interest we have on this topic.

European food already sets the global standard for food that is safe and of high quality. This is the result of years of EU policymaking combined with the efforts of all actors across the food chain. 

Now we also need to ensure that food is sustainable for both people and the planet as well as for producers – farmers, fishers and aquaculture producers – and businesses in the whole food chain.

Doing so involves tough choices. This House knows that better than anyone.

That is why I welcome Parliament’s report on the Farm to Fork Strategy. I thank the two rapporteurs, Ms Hazekamp and Mr Dorfmann, for their dedication and excellent cooperation on this file.

We need to reframe the debate around sustainability. It is not a question of ‘if’ but ‘how’ and ‘when’. This is an opportunity we cannot miss.

The planetary risk is one that we cannot afford to take. It is one that the whole world will need to face up to.

We must speed up the transition to a resilient and nature-friendly food system. Europe is first mover in this area. We should work together with all concerned to reinforce our leadership.

Systemic change requires perseverance, commitment and courage for change.

The Farm to Fork Strategy offers the joined-up vision for this much needed transition. It works alongside other Green Deal strategies and sets out more than 27 initiatives on pivotal issues ranging from animal welfare to food waste.

We will, of course, carry out impact assessments for all major legislative initiatives.

To that end, the study from the Joint Research Centre and other recent studies provide valuable input on the need to improve existing models. These are simply not yet able to capture changes on the demand side or losses for production because of climate change and biodiversity loss.

The findings also reinforce the need to act now and follow the path set out in the Farm to Fork Strategy to mitigate the risks.

Honourable Members,

Systemic change also requires ambition. Ambition to set it in motion.

The Strategy sets ambitious EU-wide targets for pesticides, fertilisers, antimicrobials, organic farming and food waste – all based on the latest available evidence.

Although they are not yet the legally binding targets your report calls for, they do provide the direction of travel. And they will become legally binding if and when we legislate for them, together with this House.

Above all, they send out a strong signal, not just in Europe, but also to our global partners, of our level of political commitment and ambition.

We see this already in the Common Agriculture Policy, with Member States invited to set explicit national values contributing to the EU targets, taking into account their specific situations, to allow for assessing the contribution of the Plans to our environmental and climate legislation and commitments.

This way, we turn the transition from a challenge into a real opportunity.

To seize it, we must look beyond individual measures, to the coherence and connections between them. Let me mention some examples to show how we are bringing change.

On the supply side, the CAP reform is designed to incentivise the transition. The National Strategic Plans will still need to be ambitious, empowering primary producers and making the sector more resilient, while reducing environmental impact.

Over the next few months, our focus will be on pesticides. We will make a proposal to reduce the use and risk of chemical pesticides and facilitate the marketing of biological pesticides.

The targeted initiative on New Genomic Techniques will explore how technology can safely contribute to our common sustainability goals.

We are also making steady progress with the new, stronger EU animal welfare legislation for the end of 2023.

Digitalisation is of course another essential driver of sustainable farming and we will enable the full use of all our tools, including Galileo and Copernicus.

Our oceans and waters offer potential too, by providing food and feed with a low carbon footprint, as well as tapping into new alternative proteins such as algae.

In the middle of the food chain, the EU Code of Conduct on responsible food business and marketing practices is a significant step forward. It has already gathered almost 100 signatories from the food sector.

On consumption, the food labelling initiatives that will come at the end of next year, will help with informed, healthy and sustainable food choices.

Preparatory work is also underway on our flagship that truly spans from farm to fork - the new framework legislation on sustainable food systems. The consultation on the inception impact assessment is open until end of this month. This horizontal framework will enable us to deliver the transition to a sustainable food system – just as the General Food Law has made our food safety the best in the world.

Finally, research and innovation, through initiatives like Horizon Europe, LIFE, BlueInvest and Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation System, will be key in enabling sustainable growth and we must make use of their full potential.

Honourable Members,

In a world of globalised value chains, we must look outwards. We cannot achieve this transition alone but other global actors need to subscribe to this agenda for the change to come.

We are ready to lead this transition globally and I call on all of you to join your voice to ours.

 

Through our trade and partnership agreements, our development policy, international standard-setting bodies and green alliances, we will work with our partners and help wherever possible to accelerate this global transition.

Thank you once again for your support. Today’s debate and tomorrow’s vote will help us all, as a Union, to bring our vision of sustainable food systems closer.